Reviews: Mystery, Murder, the Macabre

Hello everybody! Today, I’m super excited to be sharing a new review post, in which all the books are part of the mystery genre in some way. Mysteries are one of my favourite things to read and I’m THRILLED with myself for working out the solutions to some of these before the characters did (although there were still plenty of shocking twists and reveals!!).

Also, as ever, massive points if you catch the title reference. It’s from the pilot of one of my fave murder mystery shows. Anyway, onto the post!

The Boyband Murder Mystery by Ava Eldred

I’ve been dying to read this since it came out, largely because I share so many opinions on Grey’s Anatomy and This is Us with Ava that it convinced me to buy her book, and I had such a fun time reading it (even though it took me ages because I was reading it the day my puppy came home and things were just manic!). It follows a girl called Harri, who has just moved to uni, and her quest to prove the singer of her favourite boy band innocent of murdering his best friend. So, I don’t think I’d be into Half Light if they really existed, but I am a massive devotee of several bands, and I therefore absolutely got why Harri and her friends were so dedicated to helping Frankie, because I would undoubtedly do the same for my favourites if they got accused of killing someone. Harri is a very realistic character and I loved her; she isn’t perfect, she isn’t 100% sure of herself and she makes mistakes. More characters like this in YA please, and it’s especially realistic given she’s just started uni! Her friendships made through fandom were also really special, and I love the way this celebrates online friendships because not enough books do and basically all my friends are people I’ve met via book blogging. Overall, this was a delightful celebration of both fandom and mystery books, and I really want to read more from Ava soon (both Twitter threads about excellent TV and her fiction).

The Unexpected Tale of Bastien Livre by Clare Povey

This has been on my radar for a very long time, as it ticks a lot of buzzword boxes for me; it’s set in 1920s Paris, it’s a mystery-adventure and it celebrates the power of storytelling. So I was always predisposed to like it, and I was very glad that I had such a fun time reading it. It follows a boy named Bastien, whose parents recently died in a fire, leaving him in a strict orphanage run by the incredibly cruel Monsieur Xavier, and what happens when he starts investigating the death of his parents and its connection to the disappearance of many other prominent French authors. Bastien was a lovely character and I loved his much emotional support he provides to the other boys in the orphanage through his inspiring and uplifting stories, and it was great to see him become stronger and more sure of himself as the book progressed. I also loved his friends, Theo and Sami and Alice, who allow him to become braver and are also wonderful characters in their own rights. I do kind of wish we’d got to see a little more of Alice though, so I’m crossing my fingers for her being a bigger part of book 2 hopefully. The “Bad Brothers” also deserve a mention for being SUCH nasty villains, and I really want to know more about them. Also, as a French student, I massively appreciated that Clare actually speaks French and it wasn’t full of hideous grammar mistakes, as I’ve seen in a ridiculous number of other books. I’m definitely planning to pick up the next book in the series, as I’m interested to see where the story goes next.

Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swainson

I’ve wanted to read this since I saw BooksandLala talking about it on YouTube, so I was delighted when I stumbled upon it in a buy one get one half price deal in WH Smith the other week. It’s quite different to what I’d been expecting, if I’m honest, but I still really enjoyed it. It follows a man named Malcolm Kershaw, who owns a specialist mystery/horror bookshop in Boston, and what happens when someone starts doing copycat murders from a list of perfect murders in fiction he composed years before. One of my favourite parts of this was the first person narrative as I think it does some interesting things with the unreliable narrator device and the character was incredibly complex, which added to the intrigue of the book for me. I also adored how much it was a tribute to the murder mystery genre as it’s one of my favourites and this captured a lot of the reasons why I love it! I did see some of the twists and reveals coming, (although I’ll admit I was surprised about one thing to do with Claire!) but on the whole, this was a fun, addictive thriller, and has given me a list of some classic murder mysteries that I definitely want to get to or reminded me about some I already wanted to read (the Red House Mystery and Strangers on a Train are the ones I’m most interested in!).

Danger at Dead Man’s Pass by M.G Leonard and Sam Sedgman and illustrated by Elisa Paganelli

This series and the regular 6 month release schedule of the books means it gives me a frequent mystery fix, and I really love going on adventures with Hal and his uncle Nat, so I’m hoping there will be further books commissioned after book 6. But I digress! This one follows Hal and Nat as they go undercover at a family funeral in Germany, on the request of an old friend of Uncle Nat’s, to investigate the death of a man allegedly caused by a family curse. Hal is such a great character, and I love that his talent for drawing adds such a fun extra element to the books, in the form of the illustrations of his sketchbook. The new characters (who are almost all suspects in the suspicious death) were such an interesting family, and I love the development of Hal and Nat’s relationship as well, as things between them definitely changed a bit between them in this installment.There was also a reveal about Uncle Nat that I had NOT expected in this book, and I’m dying to see where that plot thread goes in the future. The conclusion to the mystery was so clever, and the sneak peek at book 5 looks like it may be the most exciting installment to date, so I’m already packing my (metaphorical) suitcase for a trip to Australia on the Solar Express in February.

Once Upon a Crime by Robin Stevens

The Murder Most Unladylike series has been part of my life for about 7 years now, I think, and this final short story collection bridging the original books with the upcoming spinoff the Ministry of Unladylike Behavior series truly felt like the end of an era. That said, I absolutely loved all of them; two stories are ones that have been published previously, two more are new mini mysteries with Hazel and Daisy detecting, and we also got two from other perspectives in the form of a story about the Junior Pinkertons (Alex and George, two of Hazel and Daisy’s friends/a rival detective agency) and also one introducing us properly to May Wong, the star of the new series and Hazel’s little sister, who was amazing in Death Sets Sail. My favourite story was probably the Case of the Uninvited Guest because I’m a massive fan of Felix and Lucy, and it was just so much fun, but I loved the canine focus of Alex and George’s story, and the cruise ship setting of the Case of the Second Scream made that a real highlight too. May’s story, a rather thrilling little mini murder mystery, has made me even more excited to pick up the first in the new series next year, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to love it just as much as I’ve loved reading about Hazel and Daisy all these years.

As Good as Dead by Holly Jackson

I’ve loved this series since the first book was released in 2019, and although I’m very sad it’s over, I don’t think there could possibly have been a more perfect send off than As Good as Dead. It sees Pip struggling with PTSD after the horrific way her last case ended, and when she starts receiving ominous threats from a stalker with an eerie resemblance to a local serial killer, she’s caught up in a new, very personal case that ends up being a fight for her life. Pip is such a complex, interesting character and I was heartbroken to see her psychological damage, although I thought it was a really good portrayal, and the ending at least gave me some hope for her future. Ravi is absolutely perfect, just a dream man tbh, and I also loved how much Pip’s friends rally round to help her. The book is split into two sections, both of which are really quite different, but equally gripping. I quite literally count put this down till I found out the ending, and the twist right before part 2 is absolutely SUBLIME. Admittedly this is a very dark book, darker even than the first two in the series, but it’s seriously amazing and I highly recommend bringing this trilogy into your life if you’re a mystery/thriller fan.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

This was actually recommended to me by another author featured in this post (thank you Ava!!), and I’m so grateful she did because I absolutely loved it. If life hadn’t got in the way I could have quite cheerfully devoured it in a single sitting, because oh my god I was HOOKED. It’s a murder mystery told in a really interesting way; it follows two law students named Femi and Charlotte who are given correspondence connected to a case involving a potentially shady charity appeal for a child with brain cancer, an amateur dramatics society with just as much drama offstage and two strange, secretive newcomers who disrupt the village in many ways. I LOVE epistolary/mixed media books a ridiculous amount, and I have no idea how anyone can call this slow paced, as although we don’t find out the victim for quite a while, I immediately wanted to know what dodgy stuff everyone was up to and how it was all going to come together. There are twists that PROPERLY shook me to the point I had to go back and reread some sections (you know which ones if you’ve read this!!), but I was also delighted with myself for guessing some things before they were revealed as there are lots of subtle clues threaded throughout the emails/text messages etc. I can’t really say anything about the characters because they’re all so complex and interesting, and no one is wholly likeable, but I had the best time reading this and I just can’t recommend it enough if you’re a mystery fan. I’ve started harassing basically everyone I know to read this immediately, and I’m absolutely going to be rereading it in the future, I imagine many many times.

The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

I binged the whole of the original Truly Devious trilogy last year in early lockdown and absolutely fell in love with them, so when I heard a new standalone mystery set at a summer camp was happening, I was absolutely buzzing for it to be out. It follows Stevie and her friends as they go to Camp Sunny Pines, previously known as Camp Wonder Falls, to investigate the 1978 Box in the Woods murders on the request of the new owner. Then, the case reopens, and the tension and pressure to unravel this decades-long mystery ramps up even more. I absolutely love Stevie. I relate to her in a LOT of ways, and I love her passion and skill and pride about being a true crime geek. I also absolutely adore Nate, who is just an absolute legend and reminds me of many writers I know, and something very peculiar happened to me in this installment. I sort of started liking Stevie’s boyfriend David?? I hated him with a VENGEANCE in 2020 so it was both surprising and rather uncomfortable to approve of his decisions in this. And lowkey really like him? As you can maybe tell, I still haven’t quite come to terms with it. The narration made me literally snort at several points because it was so witty and sharp, and I devoured this within a few hours because I adored it so much. On that note, the mystery is possibly the cleverest and most exciting of the whole series, and I loved how all the information threaded throughout came together in the denouement.

Waiting for Murder by Fleur Hitchcock

I feel like it’s been ages since Fleur Hitchcock last released an MG thriller (I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been once since Murder at Twilight, but please correct me if I’m wrong!!), a genre which I’d love to see more releases in, so I’ve been looking forward to picking this one up since it was released in June. This one is the story of Dan, who is in a small town for the summer with his archaeologist mum, in one of the hottest years ever recorded. Of course, this is a mystery book given it’s part of this post, so a body is found in a car and then subsequently disappears. Dan and his new friend Florence set out to discover what happened, and end up investigating some crimes that took place many years before. My favourite part of Fleur’s books is always the incredible atmosphere she’s able to create. It was so cold the day I read this, but she describes the sickening heat so well I could almost feel it, and the slightly creepy/spooky vibes make it perfect for autumn as well as summer, in my opinion. I also really liked that Dan’s mum was so present and caring, and Florence was such a fan character. I loved Dan’s dry, often very funny narration as well. I was thrilled with myself for partially working out the ending but some of it did still surprise me, plus I love it when all the different elements of a book come together to form a really satisfying conclusion, which this most definitely did. I’m already looking forward to my next dose of Fleur’s excellent, suspenseful writing.

The Graveyard Riddle by Lisa Thompson

I was a big fan of the Goldfish Boy when it was released back in 2017, so I was absolutely thrilled when this companion novel following Matthew’s friend Melody was announced. It sees her meeting mysterious boy named Hal, who claims that he is an undercover spy watching out for jewel thieves which she doesn’t quite believe, and attempting to solve the strange riddles she starts to find in the graveyard, with the help of her friends Matthew and Jake (and also accompanied by her delightful dachshund Frankie). It was so nice getting to know Melody more this time, especially as I adored her from the Goldfish Boy, and I love basically any character who adores their dog. Opening by telling me she loved Frankie had me hooked within seconds, I am here for ALL of the excellent dog characters. It was so nice getting to see Matthew and Jake again as well, and seeing how their friendships have changed and developed since the first book. The mystery is also really interesting, and kept me turning the pages throughout, and I love how heartwarming Lisa’s writing is; it always has a lovely message or meaning to it. I can’t believe that this is Lisa Thompson’s 5th book already, but she’s a definite must-read author for me now and I can’t wait to see what she does next!

Thank you so much for reading! Are you a fan of mystery books? Have you read any of the ones I’ve included in this post? Which ones would you particularly recommend? I’d love to chat all things mystery with you in the comments!!

Amy x


Author: goldenbooksgirl

Disabled book blogger who also writes TV, film, music and other posts from time to time | UKYABA Champion Teen 2018 | Email: | she/her

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